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Thoughts on Heroes of the Feywild

I got behind with my D&D reading in the later months of 2011, largely due to work on the Midgard 4e Bestiary, and am only just catching up. Heroes of the Feywild was the first book in my book queue and I finished reading it earlier this week.

I’ve always loved the fey - I think this dates back to the 1e Monster Manual illustrations, and also to UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave which I have very fond memories of kb98 running for me when we were in Durham, and doing the voices for the annoying leprechauns. I’ve used the fey in various campaigns over the years – there were some great faerie encounters in Atlas’ En Route sourcebooks which I used in my Lands of Intrigue campaign for adventures in Tethyr’s Wealdath, along with montecook’s Pool of Glenmarsis from Book of Eldritch Might III. We also had great fun playing Wrath of the River King in the Black Horse Parsantium campaign, and the Juma Gang have just headed to the Feywild and are “enjoying” some tricky encounters in the corrupted Garden of Graves.

Although I wasn’t sure about 4e’s changes to the long-established D&D cosmology initially, the Feywild was one thing I was definitely excited about – it had always seemed a missed opportunity not to have a proper faerie realm in D&D, complete with Summer and Winter Courts, and previous attempts to make up for this in books like Elves of Evermeet hadn’t really hit the mark. The 4e Manual of the Planes gave us a chapter on the Feywild but I was hoping that Heroes of the Feywild would give me some good DM content as well as the inevitable character options. This is because although it’s a Player’s Option book, unlike Heroes of Shadow there wasn’t going to be an accompanying boxed set covering the plane itself.

Heroes of the Feywild is an 160 page hardback book with strong art throughout, with the little illustrations by Wayne England (reminiscent of the great Tony diTerlizzi) a particular favourite of mine. What I really liked about the book was the increased emphasis on story. I find player’s books often quite dull to read and never made it through most of the “…. Power” splat books but HotF was an exception because of the numerous “Bard’s Tale” sidebars telling fun stories in a fairy tale style. And the powers now have a few lines of description above the stat block too which is very cool – also the case in Heroes of Shadow.

For DMs and players alike, there is a nice chapter at the beginning called Into the Bright which gives a good overview of the Feywild and includes the first proper map I’ve seen. Although these locations are also covered in MotP, the descriptions are new and maybe expanded slightly from that book. The bulk of the book then covers three new races, including the controversial pixie (which I must say looks like it would great fun to play), new subclasses and powers for the barbarian, bard, druid and wizard, character themes, paragon paths and feats. I liked a lot of this stuff – there are some cool new powers for the druid which I look forward to trying out if Daisy the hippy druid ever gets out of Kiris Dahn, and the witch subclass for the wizard looks great fun. It’s nice to have spells like the 5th level Foe to Frog in the full game. Themes such as Fey Beast Tamer and Unseelie Agent were also fun and interesting, although I think there would be some power creep if not everyone in the group has a theme.

Some of the later sections really stood out for me. The Feywild Gear and Magic Items sections are excellent – gray rain cloaks that can be spread on the ground to cause a puddle to appear, false path stones to create a gravel path to your destination, and a hag’s doorknob to turn a wall into a door. Awesome stuff! There are fey magic gifts too – alternative rewards that the archfey and other Feywild inhabitants can bestow on PCs as rewards for fulfilling quests. I should be able to use some of the these items in both Parsantium campaigns in the near future as the Luminous Heroes of the Ironcrags are also on their way to the (shadow) fey realms. Finally, the book finishes up with a chapter called Build Your Own Story – this is a bit like the lifepath charts in Cyberpunk 2020 and works really well in fleshing out a fey-themed characters background before starting the campaign.

Overall, this is a very good D&D book. There’s been a bit of grumbling that we haven’t had enough 4e books from WotC but if this means we get better books like this one and Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, I’m very happy.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 17th, 2012 12:03 pm (UTC)
I liked the Shadowfell & the Feywild; those two parallel realms instantly made sense in a way that the other attempts at something similar didn't-- Plane of Shadow, I'm looking at you. I, on the other hand, didn't like the Bard's Tales one bit; I'm not opposed to the so-called "fluff" of narrative content, I just thought it was BAD narrative content. There are neat items, & neat boons-- like you, I always have had a thing for the Fey. 4e was smart to broaden their definition to include things like Formorians & Lamia.

Also, on a specific note: I feel like Foe to Frog exactly epitomizes my problem with 4e. Turning a dude into a frog is awesome! Turning someone into a frog...for a couple of rounds? Less awesome, & in fact, silly. People say 4e is "video gamey," & I often thing that charge is mislaid (& if there are good things to steal from video games, steal 'em!) but I could only think about Final Fantasy VII when I read that power.
Jan. 17th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
Fair point. It would be nice to have some way of turning an enemy permanently into a frog but I also thought about FFVII and it made me smile ;)
Jan. 17th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)
I've always felt that the slide towards "Consequenceless DnD" was a bad thing. Clerics are bad enough, healing wounds, healing curses, bringing the dead back to life. Is there NOTHING bad that can happen to a PC? 4e just went the extra yard & automatically healed everyone of everything all the time. OH NO I AM BLIND...oh, for six seconds, no big deal.
Jan. 17th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about consequence -less powers but it doesn't have to work that way. There have been good examples in some of the Open Design adventures I've run of curses that have lingered on long after the initial encounter. For example, in Halls of the Mountain King there's a ghast with the "imperial conscription" power which curses a PC to rise as a ghoul if reduced to 0 hp. It needs a ritual to remove and, trapped under the mountain by bad weather, the PCs didn't have it. Both the paladin and the cleric were bitten and spent many sessions fretting ;)</p>

Also, having a death penalty of -1 to all d20 rolls after being raised until you hit 3 milestones is more effective than it sounds.

Jan. 17th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
Oh sure; I mean, as with anything, a good Narrator & good Players can make any system work. I'm just going off the text as it stands, you know?
Jan. 17th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, agreed. What did you think about level-draining in 1e/2e? Wasn't sorry to see that go personally.
Jan. 17th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Level drain never had a good mechanic, & it was just one of those "screw you!" powers. I never liked it, in part because it highlighted my above mentioned problem with no consequences-- when having your sword turned to rust or being touched by a wraith is worse than dying? You know the balance is off.
Jan. 17th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I hated it - "screw you" is a good name for it. I'm a bit more ambivalent about stealing or destroying PC gear - I think it's fair game if it happens very rarely and the DM replaces the lost item with a cool alternative. You're right though - players hate losing xp or gear more than dying! </p>

The meanest thing I ever did was have a nalfeshnee sunder an Epic PC's +6 headband to 3 stats. It was a cheap trick but it was a cheesy item and not earned through adventuring.

Jan. 17th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
My rule of thumb is: first time you meet a bad guy, they are built in a vacuum. Second time...well, they've got a few feats or powers based on the PCs, since they've had to evolve their tactics. Third time: they are built to take advantage of PCs weaknesses & to minimize PCs advantages.

Smashing a key item? Yeah that is fair game second or third time.
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